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CNN Sets the Record Straight

Liz Oxhorn, Recovery Act Communications Director, takes a look back at a report done by opponents of the Recovery Act to see if their claims have stood up,.

Last month, two Senators – who, by the way, opposed the Recovery Act from the beginning – released a report claiming that Recovery Act funds have largely been wasted or mismanaged and the program is not working.  Curiously, their report came just as we learned the economy had begun to grow again for the first time in more than a year – something many economists say is largely due to the Recovery Act – and right after the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’s nonpartisan research arm embraced by Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, said that the Recovery Act was already responsible for well over 1 million jobs.  At the time, we debunked many of the claims in the report. 

But CNN recently decided to find out for themselves – and the verdict couldn’t be more clear:

“But we took a closer look at the Senators’ top ten examples of so-called waste, we found nine of the ten did not tell the whole story and in some cases were inaccurate.”  [CNN, 1/25/10]

You may recall the Senators’ claim at the time that: “The tranquil hamlet of Bainbridge Island, Washington, received $190,000 to upgrade a patrol boat for which it has little need—while it considers downsizing its police force.” [McCain/Coburn Stimulus Checkup, 12/8/10] 

  • Not true, Lt. Bob Day of the Bainbridge Island Police Department told CNN: 
    • “There's some technology we'll be getting with this grant that is going to be able to help us better protect the port and to share information with port security partners.”  [Lt. Bob Day, CNN, 1/25/10]
  • In fact, Lt. Day questions whether the two Senators understand security priorities:
    • “Unless Senators Coburn and McCain think that homeland defense and port security is something that really isn't important and it isn't a priority, I would take exception with their estimate on that.”  [Lt. Bob Day, CNN, 1/25/10]
  • And notes the purchase supports jobs:
    • “The vendors we’re working with, it's keeping their people employed.”  [Lt. Bob Day, CNN, 1/25/10]
  • CNN’s verdict?
    • “[T]hey called the upgrade to this boat unnecessary in a small town they call a tranquil hamlet. But more than 6 million passengers travel each year on the ferry between Bainbridge island and Seattle.  City officials say the ferry system is a high risk security target and the stimulus money a valid investment. The Department of Homeland Security agrees.” [CNN, 1/25/10]

And then there was the Senators’ claim that: An “almost empty mall” was awarded an energy grant to install a geothermal heating and cooling system. [McCain/Coburn Stimulus Checkup, 12/8/10]

  • Not true, developer Dave Thrash told CNN - the mall already has three department stores committed to the new project:
    • “We're not going to heat an empty mall. We're developing the property into a modern open-air center, and the goal is to deploy this technology into the commercial space.”  [Dave Thrash, CNN, 1/25/10]
  • In fact, the project will create more than 200 jobs and cut costs the Department of Energy’s Matt Rogers notes:
    • “Jobs, cost and innovation. What made us excited were the ability to create more than 200 jobs for just the construction of this project…. And in the particular technology that they are using here is an innovative approach to ground source heat pumps that actually makes the capital cost lower.”  [Matt Rogers, CNN, 1/25/10]

If this were the first time the Senators had released a report on the Recovery Act that had more holes than a block of Swiss cheese, it might be easier to consider this a simple case of confusion.  But we aren’t talking about a great track record with accuracy here.  The last time the Senators went through this exercise, more than half of the items in that report turned out to be false or misleading claims as well – while other projects attacked included medical research to help hearing impaired children, and a state of the art project to create jobs in advanced technology.

While this may have been an entertaining exercise for the two Senators, the underlying issues here could not be more serious.  Last year, we faced the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression – and while others, including the two Senators, would have preferred to do nothing, we chose to act through the Recovery Act and other economic rescue efforts.  Nearly a year later, the evidence is now undeniable that the Recovery Act is working to create jobs and drive economic growth across the country.  In fact,  the CBO now says the Recovery Act is responsible for as many as 2.4 million jobs through projects like these:

  • In Oklahoma, the Recovery Act is helping build new flood-control dams and repair old, unsafe, and obsolete dams across the state – a move that not only creates jobs, but saves taxpayer dollars usually spent cleaning up floods. 
  • In Arizona, a local company is putting $99 million in Recovery funds, which were matched by an equal amount of private capital, to launch the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in U.S. history – an effort the company says will create an additional 750 position across multiple states. 

The question is not whether the Recovery Act is money well-spent.  Everyone from independent economists and the CBO to Republican and Democratic governors and workers across the country on the job at Recovery projects says that it is.  The question is whether critics like the two Senators will finally admit that they were wrong to oppose this vital job-creating legislation - and that it’s working in Arizona, Oklahoma and across the country.

Liz Oxhorn is Recovery Act Communications Director